John Edwards

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination

by Liz Olson
John Edwards

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Former senator John Edwards, lagging behind both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in national polls and fundraising, is looking to South Carolina to capitalize on his Southern roots to connect with voters in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

If Edwards can gain support in the typically red-state South, it would go a long way toward proving that he is the Democratic candidate with the best chance of defeating a Republican in the general election.

Edwards was born in Seneca, South Carolina, to working-class parents. His father worked in a textile mill and his mother was a postal worker. John worked with his father at the mill and was the first in his family to attend college. He received his undergraduate degree from North Carolina State University, and graduated from the University of North Carolina with his J.D. in 1977.

Legal Career

Over the two decades following his 1977 graduation, Edwards made a name for himself in North Carolina as a trial lawyer who represented “the little guy” in lawsuits against large companies, frequently winning huge cash awards for his clients.

Personal Inspiration

Edwards married Elizabeth Anania in 1977, and they have three living children. Their son Wade died in a car accident in 1996 at age 16. A year after his son’s death, Edwards decided to go into politics, and he successfully ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1998. During his Senate term, Edwards served on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees. He cosponsored more than 200 bills, including the Iraq War Resolution, which authorized the use of military force in Iraq in 2002. Edwards later apologized for the military authorization vote.

Tragedy presented itself to the Edwards again in 2004, when Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer during her husband’s bid for the presidency. She learned in early 2007 that her cancer had returned and is treatable but not curable.

Political Career

Edwards has little political experience, having served only one term in the U.S. Senate. In 1998, in his first run for political office, he defeated incumbent Republican Lauch Faircloth to become North Carolina’s junior senator. With his Southern roots, telegenic good looks, and energetic populist style, Edwards was often compared at the time to Bill Clinton. People magazine named him their choice of “sexiest politician alive” in November 2000.

2004 to 2008

Edwards ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, despite being a relative unknown on the national level. Throughout his consistently upbeat campaign, he frequently spoke of two Americas—one for the privileged and one for those left behind by the Bush administration. He surprised political pundits by making a strong run before becoming Senator Kerry’s running mate in July 2004. Kerry hoped that Edward’s youthful appeal and charisma would lift his lackluster campaign. Edwards ran for vice-president rather than seek reelection to the Senate.

In the 2008 race, Edwards still advocates bold changes for the nation but now enjoys a larger support base from politicians, which includes a long list of congressional and legislative leaders. Democratic leaders from red states and battleground states across the nation are showing their support of Edwards in a series of events in the “True Blue Majority” campaign. They aim to convince voters that Edwards is the best chance for Democrats to win the general election.

After his term in the Senate, Edwards practiced law in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he lives, and served as director of the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also toured the country in the summer and fall 2005, promoting causes such as education, the elimination of poverty, and universal health care.

With a short political resume, the handsome millionaire is relying on his Southern roots, youth, charisma, and charm to win over the American people.

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